Review by Camden Ferrell
As a country, some like to think we eradicated white supremacy and that our nation’s atrocities against African Americans is confined to the distant past. However, it’s all too obvious that such racism and prejudice is rooted deeply in our systems and continues to have an impact on many lives today. One of the most horrific acts of violence in our country, the Tulsa Race Massacre, was committed about 100 years ago, and it doesn’t nearly receive the attention it warrants. In her newest movie, Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer, director Dawn Porter aims to explore this massacre as well as the events and other tragedies that led up to it. It’s essential history and quite informative at times, but it does suffer from being too safe and conventional in its execution.
Never being taught about the massacre on Black Wall Street in my 12 years of public education, it’s genuinely surprising to see how much of Black history has been suppressed. This movie explores this massacre as well as the Red Summer of 1919 that consisted of widespread racial violence. These are fascinating subjects that have not been properly taught to the public in an accessible manner, and it’s important that these stories are being told in any way possible.
Porter’s approach to the subject is confident yet conventional. It features a lot of testimonials from a diverse group of people and professions, and it combines this with news clippings and archival footage. As a whole, the information and content is mostly present. However, in its execution, the film opts for more straightforward coverage rather than a captivating journey through history that would have been more effective in communicating the subject’s urgency and relevance.
What it lacks in style and execution, it certainly makes up with its commentary and relevance. It tackles a wide array of pertinent issues that affect Black people in the country today. They intelligently tie all of this back to America’s checkered history with white supremacy and oppression. Reparations for Black people in the U.S. is a controversial topic amongst many groups, but this movie does an excellent job of breaking down what this entails and the justification for it. If nothing else, this movie is extremely informed and is able to impart knowledge and wisdom to its viewers.
Another problem with the movie comes from how much more information the viewer is left wanting. It does a great job of giving a superficial rundown of these events with a fair amount of in-depth commentary. Even though its execution wasn’t too dynamic, after a brief ninety minutes, you feel like there was more that could have been said. While I like that the director wants you to continue your education with independent research, there are some parts that I wanted to be examined a lot more thoroughly.
More than anything, it’s important to remember these events are not ancient history. There are still people alive today (albeit few) that are survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre. This problem is rooted deeply in our country’s history, and the only way out is through education, compassion, and justice.
Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer premieres on National Geographic June 18 at 9pm EST, and it will subsequently be streaming on Hulu.